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“Bach vs. Haydn 1788/90” = Works by the Two Composers – group led by Barthold Kuijken, flute – Accent (2 discs)

An interesting contrast between two quite different composers.

“Bach vs. Haydn 1788/90” = CPE BACH: Quartet in G, Wq 95; Quartet in a, Wq 93; Quartet in D, Wq94; HAYDN: Trio in D, Hob. XV:16; Trio in F, Hob. XV:17; Trio in G, Hob. XV: 15 – Barthold Kuijken, flute/ Wieland Kuijken, cello/ Ann Cnop, viola/ Piet Kuijken, fortepiano/ Ewald Demeyere, harpsichord – Accent ACC 24293 (2 discs), 63:05, 44:24 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Any recording with a Kuijken performing on it is guaranteed to be of quality, and this one is no exception. That remarkable family has established a Belgian line of musicians that is not likely to be surpassed anytime soon, and they are all foundation stones of the modern period instrument movement, one of the first to actually make those old instruments sound good. So needless to say, the performances here are all superb in every regard, the sound produced engrossing and warm in capturing the soft qualities of the instruments.

The music is another question. Some people have issues with the non-quartet chamber music of Haydn; but these trios for flute, cello, and fortepiano are a delight, coming ten years after Mozart wrote his Flute Quartets and at the end of Haydn’s period with Eszterhazy. But what makes them more remarkable is hearing them in comparison with the music of CPE Bach, quartets for flute, viola, cello, and harpsichord, written only one year before the composer died. The instrumentation for the Bach pieces is extraordinary and uncommon, and provide a most unusual tonal palate in the middle range that is soft and flexible. For Haydn, convention always rules for the most part, though he published these works as piano sonatas with optional cello, flute, or violin. Posterity has treated them as genuine trios—you make the call. Either way, they are a delight.
If anything this release show the disparity between two competing styles at a pivotal point in history, nicely presented and well worth exploring.

—Steven Ritter

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